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In the third year of his reign, Theodore assembled a synod of bishops, and many other teachers of the church, who loved and were acquainted with the canonical statutes of the fathers.1

The very first synod of the English Church, called by Theodore of Tarsus the Archbishop of Canterbury on the 24th September in the year 673. In attendance, alongside Theodore, were the following bishops,

Wilfrid, bishop of the Northumbria chose not to attend himself and was represented by his proctors.

As you can see, the church wasn't exactly over-endowed with bishops at the time, but then the church was in its infancy; Sussex for one was still entirely pagan and much of the churches organisation was still fairly haphazard. Twelve years later in 685 there were 14 dioceses as Theodore got busy imposing his authority. The synod itself agreed "that more bishops should be made... but this matter for the present was passed over" was a foretaste of arguments to come, as Wilfrid was unhappy with the subsequent decision to divide the diocese of Northumbria, and appealed for assistance from the Pope in the matter. 3

It is sometimes said that the synod resulted in the union of the church in England under the diocese of Canterbury and formed the basis for a centrally administered church, but there was no disputing the primacy of Canterbury at the time (Theodore called the synod in the first place) and nothing was actually agreed at the synod about administration per se.

The synod actually agreed the dating of Easter, as well as some measures regarding monastic and episcopal discipline and the duties of clerics. For good measure it also forbade adultery, incest and divorce. It might not have been revolutionary but it was a first step in the creation of an organised Christian church in what was already being called England.

The Ten Canons of the Synod of Hertford, regarded as sufficently important by the Venerable Bede to quote in full Book IV Chaper V of his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum as follows;

  • I. That we all in common keep the holy day of Easter on the Sunday after the fourteenth moon of the first month.
  • II. That no bishop intrude into the diocese of another, but be satisfied with the government of the people committed to him.
  • III. That it shall not be lawful for any bishop to trouble monasteries dedicated to God, nor to take anything forcibly from them.
  • IV. That monks do not remove from one place to another, that is, from monastery to monastery, unless with the consent of their own abbot; but that they continue in the obedience which they promised at the time of their conversion.
  • V. That no clergyman, forsaking his own bishop, shall wander about, or be anywhere entertained without letters of recommendation from his own prelate. But if he shall be once received, and will not return when invited, both the receiver, and the person received, be under excommunication.
  • VI. That bishops and clergymen, when travelling, shall be content with the hospitality that is afforded them; and that it be not lawful for them to exercise any priestly function without leave of the bishop in whose diocese they are.
  • VII. That a synod be assembled twice a year; but in regard that several causes obstruct the same, it was approved by all that we should meet on the 1st of August once a year, at the place called Clofeshoch.
  • VIII. That no bishop, through ambition, shall set himself before another; but that they shall all observe the time and order of their consecration.
  • IX. It was generally set forth, that more bishops should be made, as the number of believers increased; but this matter for the present was passed over.
  • X. Of marriages; that nothing be allowed but lawful wedlock; that none commit incest; no man quit his true wife, unless, as the gospel teaches, on account of fornication. And if any man shall put away his own wife, lawfully joined to him in matrimony, that he take no other, if he wishes to be a good Christian, but continue as he is, or else be reconciled to his own wife.


1 Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum by Bede

2 Putta is described as such rather than the bishop of Kent, presumably because Kent had ceased to be an independent kingdom.

3 The Pope sided with Wilfrid but Theodore took no notice

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